Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Planting a Green Manure/Cover Crop


This year we finally got our ducks in a row and planted a green manure (aka cover crop) in the garden.  It's the last "hurrah" in the garden before winter and gives a gardener a feeling of relief that the harvest season is now over and hope that next year's harvest will be even better!  Jon says, "It's like giving the garden a blanket for the winter."  Without green manure/cover crops, the garden lays open to the elements where weed seeds can land and the wind and rain can wash away the topsoil.  It's a simple way a gardener can give back to the soil after the harvest.

Green manure is planted in the fall and remains in the garden until spring when it is mowed and tilled under. There are many benefits to planting green manure including:
  • adds nitrogen
  • adds organic matter and humus content
  • suppresses weeds
  • provides some erosion control
  • increases microbial activity in the topsoil
  • provides competition for weed growth
  • breaks up subsoil and clay layers for increased water and air penetration

We purchased our cover crop from GrowOrganic.com  The mix consists of: bell beans, peas, purple vetch, hairy vetch, common vetch, and cayuse oats.  The seeds were purchased "raw" and coated with N-Dure, a bacteria that coats the seeds to stimulate nitrogen production.

We purchased 20 pounds of seeds and enough bacteria to treat 50 pounds of seeds.  We used more bacteria inoculate than was required because this is the first time our soil has been planted with a green manure and we don't irrigate our garden in the winter.  Total cost was: $32.00

Seeds...

The best way to make the N-Dure bacteria stick to the seeds is add about 1 cup milk and 1 tsp. of molasses to about 10 pounds of seeds.  Everything was thoroughly mixed together and immediately planted in the garden.  While Jon sprinkled the seeds, I covered them with dirt using a garden rake.  It's important that the seeds are kept in the shade and covered right away because the bacteria dies when exposed to sunlight. 

Seeds after bacteria inoculation.

The soil was roto-tilled; weeds removed; and soil mounded into hills.  In the picture Jon is using a hand trowel to sprinkle seeds.

Two weeks after planting.  We are doing an experiment with mulching between the rows to keep weeds down.  About 5 layers of newspaper were covered with straw.  This picture only shows about 1/4 of our actual garden. 

A close-up of the green manure three weeks after planting. 


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A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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